Spanish fashion giant Zara building flagship store in Burnaby’s Metropolis

COVID-19 has produced a lot of bad news for Burnaby’s biggest mall.

Now, it has some good news to report.

Metropolis at Metrotown has seen many of its biggest tenants – such as Microsoft – close up show.

But another tenant has huge plans by adding a flagship store. Spanish fashion giant Zara, part of the Inditex group, is busy building a whopping 40,000-square-foot store at Metropolis.

That will make it one of the biggest retail stores in all of Canada.

Zara sells all sorts of items for men, women and children, including clothing, accessories, shoes, swimwear, beauty products and perfumes.

This addition is set amidst a backdrop of store closures – including Freddy Pant Room, David’s Tea, Pink, Frank and Oak, the list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, retailers that are still standing are ramping up plans for a transformed Christmas shopping season.

In Burnaby, Christmas will indeed be coming early in the form of ramped-up holiday shopping campaigns – with businesses hoping they will receive good news during a dismal financial year marred by COVID-19.

The strategies are aimed to draw in buyers early, step up their e-commerce game and convince consumers to buy gifts for far-flung friends and family.

Burnaby’s Indigo Books & Music Inc. at Metropolis at Metrotown is already rolling out cards and advent calendars.

Hudson's Bay Co. launched its yuletide collection of clothing and decor six weeks early.

For Indigo CEO Heather Reisman, flexibility and health awareness are top of mind.

In the wake of 15 store closures since March, the chain has revamped its customer experience with private shopping hours "for people who may feel particularly compromised," she said. Loyalty program members can visit outside of normal operating hours — typically before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m. — to browse at will, free from crowds.

The 12 weeks leading up to New Year’s Day usually account for about one-third of annual sales, she said.

"It’s not possible to fully make up for almost three months of almost 200 physical stores closed (earlier this year) … so our goal is to get as close to last year’s sales as possible, recognizing that it will depend on customers spreading out their time."

Shipping and logistics continue to be upended as the pandemic's second wave begins to break. 

While some companies are relying on online deals and curbside pickup, London Drugs is bulking up its physical presence. It plans to construct queue shelters at more than half of its 82 stores, including metal-roofed structures bolted to buildings to shield customers from wind and possible snow.

Michael LeBlanc, a senior adviser at the Retail Council of Canada, says consumers may have more spending money on hand after shelling out less on vacations, commutes and lunchtime cappuccinos.

"Our message to Canadians for the holidays is: shop early and shop often. This is not the year to wait. And retailers are telling me they’re seeing signs of gift buying already," LeBlanc said.

Seasonal outfits and items will hit the shelves early at various retailers across the country as COVID-19 upends the annual shopping surges on Black Friday and Boxing Day. But unless the pandemic returns with a vengeance — a real possibility — in-person purchases will not disappear entirely.

  • With files from the Canadian Press
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